Compassion of the Church: Springing Faith into Action for Haiti

Jaisal Noor Feb 19, 2010

 SPRINGING FAITH INTO ACTION: For nearly four decades, Rev. Dr. Philius H. Nicolas has led the 2,000-member congregation of the Evangelical Crusade of Fishers of Men located in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. He is now heading up a local Haiti relief effort. PHOTO: AMELIA H. KRALES

Reverend Doctor Philius Nicolas has led the Evangelical Crusade of Fishers of Men since its founding in 1973 in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Yet, this church’s congregation was shaken to its core by the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, which resulted in a death toll of some 230,000 and has left more than two million people without food, shelter and water.

“Every member of this church lost somebody in the earthquake,” said Rev. Nicolas. “There is one member of my church who has an apartment building in Port-au-Prince that housed 30 people. Only one of them was saved, 29 of them died that Tuesday afternoon.”

As one of the Haitian Consulate’s official drop-off locations for disaster relief supplies in Brooklyn, the Evangelical Crusade of Fishers of Men has received so many material contributions that Rev. Nicolas has no more room to store donations until the consulate picks up the more than two rooms’ worth of goods that have already been collected.

This is not the first time that the 2,000 members of the Evangelical Crusade of Fishers of Men — or other Haitian churches in NYC — have banded together to help Haitians abroad.

Pastor Testar St. Victor of Mount of Olives Church of God in Flatbush, Brooklyn, recently returned from transporting over 500 pounds of relief materials, including toiletries, first aid items and canned goods, to the church’s Mount Olives Mission in the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. The church’s Pentecostal congregation of more than 2,000 Haitian members began collecting supplies the day after the earthquake.

In early March, 30 members of the Mount of Olives Church of God will travel to Haiti to deliver more aid and volunteer in relief efforts.

Despite record amounts of donations — U.S.-based charities have raised more than $500 million in aid to Haiti, with some of the largest amounts raised by the Red Cross ($271 million), the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund ($40 million) and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF ($44.7 million) — Pastor Victor says the burden for Haiti’s future will fall on the shoulders of the Haitian-American community.

“At this point it’s our turn to rally and to get everyone together. It’s our responsibility to go where the Red Cross cannot go. The point is it is up to us, as Haitians, to get ourselves together to rebuild. And we will,” Pastor Victor said.

For more of the Indypendent’s coverage of Haiti from the current issue:

Beyond Port-au-Prince: Grassroots Women’s Group Brings Aid to Remote, Hard-Hit Areas of Haiti,” By Judith De Los Santos, Feb. 19, 2010

Legal Floodgates Open: Undocumented Haitians Now Have Chance to Live, Work Legally in U.S.,” By Renee Feltz, Feb. 19, 2010

The U.S. in Haiti: Neoliberalism at the Barrel of a Gun,” By Arun Gupta, Feb. 19, 2010

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